Night Shade (Dreamweaver Book 1)

By: Helen Harper

Dreamweaver Book One

For Granny

The strongest heroine I’ve ever met

Chapter One

You have to have a dream so you can get up in the morning.

Billy Wilder

There’s a famous Chinese curse that states, ‘May you live in interesting times.’

I didn’t understand it when I was younger; back then, I was all about living for the moment, attacking each second as if it were my last and sucking the marrow out of life, as Robin Williams’ character in Dead Poets Society would say. But then, as I experienced more of life, more of other people, more of the world, more of simply ‘being’, that is when I truly understood.

The Holocaust was ‘interesting times’. I also have no doubt that those brave soldiers, going over the edge and into the horror of no man’s land in World War One, didn’t pause to think that they were lucky because their lives were not dulled by the tedium of slippers, cigars and armchairs filled with lazy, fat, purring cats. I’d also be surprised if there were any Americans who thought on September 11th 2001, ‘Well, if only my life was more exciting.’

My true epiphany, when I really worked out how utterly cool boredom can be, was when I was around fifteen years old and had the opportunity to watch paint dry. People pay vast amounts of money to achieve that kind of meditative experience in India, Nepal and Thailand. I achieved this feat without even leaving my bedroom.

My parents had allowed me to choose my own paint. Instead of the baby pink that I’d grown up with, I was finally being given the freedom to design my room the way I wanted. And I wanted black. Black to match my heart, my adolescent angst and my need to be different. Of course, it didn’t occur to me at the time that I was playing into the biggest teenage cliché in the book but, hey, I was happy so it didn’t matter.

It took me the better part of the morning to cover every section of the room carefully and leave no streaks. Black, as it turns out, is a particularly tricky colour to get right.

Anyway, once I was done with the final difficult-to-reach, corner, I sat cross-legged on the floor and began to watch. The first hour was the hardest. It was incredibly tempting to reach forward and touch the paint to see how dry it was. I managed to resist the urge; I also didn’t want to start shifting around uncomfortably – I was on a mission that didn’t involve what my legs felt like or how quickly I could achieve pins and needles. I wanted to watch paint dry.

When you pause and take in the world around you (and I mean really take it in) it’s amazing what you notice. I had always assumed that the walls of my little space were perfectly flat but they had a personality of their own. There was a slight groove in the corner where the door occasionally banged and scraped whenever I was in a bad mood, and there was a veritable atlas of bumps, notches and scrapes that even the thick black paint couldn’t hide. There was a particularly fascinating dark area that was shaped like my English teacher’s head. You’d imagine that you couldn’t spot a dark spot on black paint but it just goes to show that nothing can ever be truly covered up. There’s a lesson in that somewhere. Anyway, I focused on that splodge for at least forty minutes. For weeks afterwards, I felt like I was being watched. As a result, my English homework was extraordinarily well done for a long time afterwards.

At some point, my mother called up the stairs that lunch was ready. I ignored her. If I went off to eat, something might happen whilst I was gone. The patch that was lying in a gleam of sunlight might dry whilst I was away – and that simply would not do.

In that one day, despite the hungry belly, the pins and needles and the ever-watchful gaze of Mrs Humphreys’ splodge, I learned that boredom can be fun. That you can always find beauty in the details, no matter how small. And that sometimes we need to take a break and appreciate the world.

Excitement is a matter of opinion.

* * *

I start every day the same. I have my routine off pat and if Mrs Humphreys could see me now, she’d be impressed – well, she would be with the routine part. When I finally realised what was happening and what I had to do to avoid sliding into a spiral of never-ending despair, I decided to be strict with myself. It was the only way I could avoid staying up till goodness knows when watching dodgy late-night television and reading pointless articles on the internet before collapsing into a coma. Then I’d stay in bed until after three – if I managed to extricate myself from my duvet at all. That way lies madness; I know what I’m like if I don’t keep a handle on my life.

My alarm goes off at 6.24am. I allow myself to hit the snooze button once so when it rings for a second time, it’s bang on half past six. The Chairman doesn’t enjoy my extra doze, even though he should be used to it by now. The moment the first alarm peals into the dark silence of my bedroom, he hops up next to my pillow and stares down at me, occasionally pawing at my face. I’m often tempted to forego the clock and see what he does next but habit is something I must maintain.

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